Connect Consumers with “Meaningful Use”

Posted by Peter Neupert 
Corporate Vice President, Health Solutions Group

(Cross-posted from Neupert on Health)

The current hot, behind-the-scenes, debate in Health IT (HIT) is around how “meaningful use” of HIT will be defined for purposes of the incentive payments provided in the high-tech portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Since there is a lot of money at stake and a lot of interested stakeholders, I am sure it will be an energetic debate. 

Hopefully the definition of “meaningful use” will include some concept of improved health outcomes (Message to Washington – It’s all about the Outcomes). I know this presents  many challenges, and I don’t pretend to have the complete answer on how to best define “meaningful use.”

As Zeke Emanuel remarked at our Institute of Medicine meeting this week, specific suggestions are much more effective than general principles in rule-making – so I’m taking to heart his recommendation. 

My simple, concrete, critically important and specific suggestion for incorporation into the definition of “meaningful use”? Make sharing data and actionable information with consumers a required condition of “meaningful use.” Specific and simple. I can add lots of characteristics to it – near real time, two-way sharing, portable, and so on – but the essential point is that consumer access to their own data has to be DEFINED as part of “meaningful use.” Consumers are the ones ultimately accountable for their health. If we don’t include them, we will miss this historic opportunity to create a new ‘platform’ for transforming care in innovative ways.

We need to think bigger. Folks in Washington talk about the high-tech portion of the ARRA as being a down payment on the future of health delivery. I am not sure what that means myself. But if it means we are building a platform for transforming care or creating a learning health care system – I know it must include connecting the last mile, which means incorporating the consumer and the home into the platform – by design.

The formal definition of meaningful is: full of meaning, significance, purpose, or value.

The key word for me in this definition is value. Unless the definition of meaningful use is extended to include the consumer, real value in way of improved health outcomes or return on this huge investment will never be realized. 

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Microsoft News Center Staff